Democrats in the Virginia Senate’s Finance and Appropriations Committee voted 11–5 on Wednesday to advance a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses in the commonwealth, according to the Washington Examiner.
All Republicans on the panel voted against the measure, while all Democrats voted in favor.
The Washington Post reports that the measure “won preliminary approval” in the full state Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, on Friday. A final vote is expected Monday.
An identical bill is meanwhile making its way through the Democrat-led state House, according to the Associated Press, ahead of a Tuesday deadline to get bills finalized for approval by Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam.
According to the AP, the bill “would allow immigrants [in Virginia] to obtain a driver’s license regardless of legal status. The applicant must prove they don’t have a social security or individual taxpayer identification number and submit a certified statement that their information is true,” the outlet reported. Applicants must also pass a driving test.
State Sen. Scott Surovell, a Democrat who represents a district in northern Virginia and who introduced the bill, said “the bill would basically allow about 300,000 people to obtain a driver’s license,” according to the Examiner.
“People need to be able to drive to the doctor, take their kids to school, and drive to work without fear of being prosecuted,” he added.
Safety and security
According to the Examiner, advocates of the measure say it would bring in as much as $10 million in additional revenue to the state, in part by allowing illegal immigrants to register their cars. Supporters also say it would reduce traffic accidents “because drivers will be educated, trained and tested,” the AP reported.
“There’s 17 other states who have done it and the other states have removed the legal presence requirement, the number of collisions have gone down,” Surovell said, according to Fox 5 in Washington, D.C.
But some critics say the bill “would reward immigrants who are here illegally and fast track their path to legal residency,” Fox 5 reported. Others, like Republican state Del. Terry Austin, say the measure could pose national security concerns.
“I think we need to be very careful with this,” Austin said, according to the Examiner. “This could misrepresent an individual’s identity and could compromise the safety in the United States.”
If the legislation passes, Virginia will join D.C., Puerto Rico, and more than a dozen other states in granting licenses to illegal immigrants. The measure would take effect on Jan. 1, 2021.